(Second part of The Devil on wheels)
Fear hinders our ability for thinking, analyzing, and acting cunningly. When I realize the lorry driver wants to chase me to death, my only reaction is to speed up and escape; run away on a straight line — as if a hen ahead of a fox. Only that, were it not for fear, I’d realize that I can tease and even mock my pursuer, precisely because my vehicle is faster and quicker than his, plus I’m in no hurry to get to any particular place.
But I’m scared and just speed up. Now driving 120 km/h, a somewhat dangerous speed for normal Lithuanian by-roads; yet not enough for getting rid of the lorry, which is close on my heels, some two hundred meters behind. I would’ve never guessed one of those machines could go this fast. Perhaps — alike the truck in The Duel — this has also a tuned Diesel engine; and alike The Duel, I’m being pushed to make some rash overtakings.
We arrive to Paluse, a town. I think of going to the Police, but how to find them? The moment I stop in a traffic light or a zebra, the lorry will catch up with me. Police is only an option if I come across them by chance. Besides, it might even not work: I can’t say a word in Lithuanian and maybe policemen here are as wild as he is. I might be taken for a fool, trying to explain to them I’m being chased by a killer driver. So I go ahead jumping lights and zebras, and before deciding anything useful Paluse is already gone.
I can’t go on like this, driving this recklessly until Vilnius. I need to shake him off no matter how. But that’s not as easy as it seems: along this road there’s not a single fork or a crossing for miles and miles, nowhere to make a turn to somewhre else; not a bend or a slope where I can get out of his sight long enough for finding a hideout. So, even though it pisses me off, I speed up to 140 km/h (thanks God I’m on a full tank) in order to get ahead. Still, though smaller, that son-of-a-bitch is always in my view mirror. Jesus! How can a lorry drive that fast?
After a while, I come to a strech with some low hills where the road makes a few curves. Right after the last one I see my chance: there’s a track to the right and a patch of bush some fifty metres further. I jam on the brakes, take the track and hide behind the sparse foliage of a shrub. Jump off the bike, huddle and wait, watching the road. For half a minute — seems ages to me — I’m fear frozen: if he has seen me and comes here after me, I’m in a mouse trap.
With indescribable relief, I see him going past in a rush, now chasing only after the wind.
I then realize how frightened I am; my legs are shaking; and as I calm down a new fear replaces the former, when seeing the mistake I’ve just made: while I was driving ahead of him, at least I knew his position and movements, but now that I’m behind, I don’t know where he is or what he’s doing. Once he realizes I’ve given him the slip — and it wont’ take much — he can stop and lie in wait anywhere, visible or not. Which one of the hundred similar lorries along this road is mine? Anyone parked on the shoulder, stopped at a petrol station, a road restaurant, a side-street in a town… This idyllic road has become a trap to me: since there aren’t any forks or alternative routes to Vilnius (or nowhere else, for that matter), I’m forced to go over every single one of the one hundred remaining kilometres. Which means travelling in company of the same fright I’ve just tried to get rid of.
But I have to keep going, so I set off. A lot slower this time, and watchful for any suspect lorry I see around; which means I’m getting startled every so often.
When — after two hours of uneasiness and starts — I finally see myself inside the city’s busy traffic (who would have told me I was ever to welcome a heavy traffic!) and safe from the lorryish threat, my nerves are on edge. Physically unharmed, at least.
Yet this wasn’t the end of today.
I park Rosaura near the train station in order to search, on foot, some accommodation around. Take off the rain gear, pack it, and start looking. Barely hundred meters away, rain starts again. Hello Murphy. Pablo, go back to Rosaura and put on the rain pants again.
Regarding accommodation I can’t complain: I find this small and simple Hotel Alexa, quiet and unexpensive. Conveniently located too, between the station and the old town. The receptionist, an agreable one, provides me with access to the inner yard so I can park Rosaura there. Fine. When I go fetch the bike, rain gets stornger again. How’s it going, Murphy?
Once in the room (small, yet comfy), I strip off my clothes and get under the shower for a long while, to wash away all the day’s emotional burden. Then, tired and sleepless as I am, lie down and try a nap; but the very anxiety prevents me from resting. After a while, second time defeated by insomnia, I go out for a walk and get me some dinner and a couple of beers.
It’s been calm for quite a while; now, once I walk a few minutes, it starts raining again, this time for real; pouring; a diluge; as though the world is ending today. No porch nearby where to shelter. See you later, Murphy. In a tick, despite my umbrella, I get my boots and jeans soaked to the knee.
I choose a lively and warm restaurant, hoping to recover a bit from the day’s hardships; but here I get this typical sullen, bitter tender so common in the Eastern-block countries, who ends up ruining my spirits. One hour later, when I go back to the hotel (what!, is it not raining this time?), utterly defeated, I feel like crying. This has been what I’d call an ill-fated day.
Of course I never knew why the lorry driver was, that morning, awaiting me on the road shoulder, nor how come he knew I would go past. Trying to remember all details, I can only conjecture he must have seen me while I was putting on my rain gear on the curbe, after the road works stretch; and gave me the eye. But then again, who can guess the motives of a Lithuanian driver?